Ready up the Dixie, 'cause we're going down the Potomac!
Just when we thought we were over with our adventures in the Capital Wasteland, Bethesda manages to reel us in yet again. After fighting a simulated past war in Operation Anchorage, exploring a dilapidated city in The Pitt, and kicking some Enclave arse in Broken Steel, it's time to face the ultimate challenge in Point Lookout: Riding a steamboat up the Potomac! Okay, so that doesn't sound too exciting, but don't judge it on that alone.
[image1]This DLC can be started at any point in your main game's adventure. You get word of a steamboat captain that is willing to transport any sort of adventurer or thief (or any combination of the two) in his boat up the Potomac River to Point Lookout, a supposed paradise for treasure hunters. What you'll shortly discover, however, is that, as always, things aren't what they seem, and the city is a dump of a swamp, infested with hostile, deformed locals, a crazy cult, and many more residents and visitors that might not take too kindly to our Vault 101 hero's antics in their town.
Point Lookout happens to be based around a real place in Maryland, and part of the local history translates here in the form of a real-life influential family, the Calverts, who helped found the state of Maryland and have a mansion in town, which plays a large role in the main quest. The story in Point Lookout is gloomy and full of black comedy moments, making it the more interesting of the DLCs so far in terms of plot - well, Anchorage didn't have much to work with, The Pitt was just plain depressing, and Broken Steel tried to patch up the calamity that was Fallout 3's original ending with rubber bands and (Aqua Pura) spit.
[image2]If you happened to have downloaded Broken Steel and have not reached your level cap yet, you'll be in for a good time, due to the ferocity of enemies in this quiet, little, decrepit pleasure town: The local populace have mutated due to the radiation, but instead of becoming unarmed ghouls, they kept their guns and shovels, making them dangerous adversaries. Sure, most of these new enemies are mostly re-skinned versions of some old friends from DC, but they fit right in along with the few local feral ghouls that roam the swamps. Add in Mirelurks and Swamplurks, and you know you're in for a fight.
Keeping with the Southern flavor, the new weapons introduced in this pack are bolt-action rifles, double-barreled shotguns, and shovels. Shovels also play a secondary role of... well... shovels, as you can use them to dig up treasure found in patches of soft dirt. The weapons are fun to acquire, and a couple might replace some of the unique armaments you've acquired in the Wasteland, but if you've come across the Tesla Cannon or Gauss Rifle at any point in past DLCs, it's still unlikely that you'll switch back to bullets.
[image3]Now, a lot can be said about how contained and artificial some of the environments in the past packs have been, but Point Lookout certainly doesn't. The new swampy setting feels entirely different than anything from before, and it's quite large to boot at about a quarter (give or take) of the Capital Wasteland, with lots of hidden locations to discover. Most locations will be mere distractions in your exploration, but some hidden side quests that lead to Point Lookout's more interesting scenarios award you for exploring, even if some just boil down to fetch quests padded with an interesting premise, like making moonshine for a crazy drunken local.
It's hard to find blemishes in the content side of Point Lookout, but looking beyond (har har) that into the technical, there are a few things that bring the experience down. Carried over from the main Fallout 3 game, there are a host of graphical glitches, from texture-warping 'black holes' that follow you around to the more severe lock-ups and just getting stuck in the environment. During this five-hour expansion, I completed a quest's objective, only to have the game lock up, forcing me to fight everything again. This happened not just once, but on three occasions. Of course, saving helps with this, but these issues shouldn't be around in the fourth downloadable content pack.
Other than the technical problems mentioned, there isn't much holding Point Lookout back. It provides an interesting locale, great story, and some fun new perks and equipment. It's also a bit lengthier than the first few DLCs, with a fairly larger map to explore, rewarding you each time you replay, checking every nook and cranny. Point Lookout is among the contenders for the best Fallout 3 content to date. A fun set-up, for sure, as the final - final, really? - downloadable content pack, Mothership Zeta, draws ever closer.